A report released today by 2020Health, a think tank in the U.K., suggests that the private sector could save money it is currently losing from a "sick note culture" if "health and safety inspectors" were given an increased role in educating employees on healthy lifestyles.
The Telegraph sums it up: "Council inspectors should start monitoring what private sector employees eat at work in order to help improve the country’s health and to reduce sickness rates, a report has concluded."
It has more:
The report recommended the role of council “diet police” be increased to offer advice to the private sector. The authors said the proposals in the report, released today, would help reduce the “sick note culture”.
The suggestion is likely to lead to claims of more “meddling” from council inspectors.
Latest figures show that up to 3 percent of the active workforce is off sick at any one time. About 175 million working days are lost each year due to ill health, costing the economy more than £100 billion.
Here are a few bullet points from the report, which can be downloaded here:
- Expanding the role of Local Authority health and safety inspectors to provide information on employee health, such as diet, the importance of exercise, and workstation setup.
- Creating a new position of regional occupational health director, who could work alongside the regional public health director in local government. This would ensure continuity in enabling the public health agenda to be delivered through the workplace.
- Considering a statutory reqirement that PHDs produce an independent annual report on the health of the local population, and that this report should take into account employment issues.
In addition to giving a role to so called "diet police," the report details the importance of making it easier for those who are sick to work from home and helping those recovering to get back into the workforce. The Telegraph reports the Prime Minister David Cameron as saying earlier this year that doctors should be more limited in their power to take people out of work for long periods of time:
"‘Of course some of these people genuinely can’t work, and we must support them. That’s only fair," the Prime Minister said.
"But it’s also fair that those who can return to work should be supported to do so. We need to end the something for nothing culture.
"‘While 90 percent of sickness cases are short-term – that stomach bug or flu that we all suffer from occasionally – nearly half of all days lost to sickness absence are because of cases that last four weeks or more."
Ministers believe that about one in five of those who are absent on long-term sick leave should either never have been signed off in the first place or could go back to work.
These recommendations come on the heels of another 2020Health report released last month about healthcare fraud costing as much as £3 billion per year. This fraud included doctors charging patients for procedures they don't need and misuse of prescription medications, among others. The organization believes addressing the sencould help save money and improve employee